Words From the Heart

How does language help us express and share our feelings with each other? Find out through this activity!
Ages 5-18 / 30
min Activity
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Objectives

  • Discuss the connection between language and empathy, and explore how people express emotions like gratitude, comfort, and affection in different languages 
  • Practice responding to different scenarios with empathy and understanding for others 
  • Connect with other classrooms through follow-up activities (located in the “Extensions” tab) to continue exploring empathetic phrases in other languages (e.g., interacting with another class over a live or asynchronous exchange)

Supporting Research

There are numerous benefits when we learn multiple languages, such as decreased prejudice toward people different from ourselves, greater analytical and problem-solving abilities, and enhanced listening and memory skills. Importantly, when we learn a new language, we also learn about the cultural context surrounding it, and gain a deeper understanding of our own culture. This activity aims to foster students’ self-awareness as they reflect and share about their language and culture, and perspective taking and inclusivity as they seek out and try to understand others’ perspectives and experiences in how they express themselves. 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.

Materials

Activity Partners

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Educator Note

This activity offers an opportunity for students to share about their native language(s) or the language they are currently learning in school. For language learners, encourage them to share empathetic phrases in the language that they are currently learning.

Instructions

  1. Begin the activity by discussing the connection between language and empathy. First, ask students to share what “empathy” means to them, and build on their understanding by watching this short video together.

    Then, you might say: “Language serves as a bridge to express and share our emotions. Whether it's expressing gratitude and love, offering comfort, or sharing sorrows, words empower us to communicate our feelings. Today, we’re going to explore the empathy of language, and how it enables us to understand and connect with each other, making our interactions more compassionate and caring.”
  2. Display this slideshow for students, which introduces empathetic phrases from different languages. Throughout the slideshow, pause to ask students what each phrase might reveal about the community’s culture, values, and history, how it might build empathy between people, and any similar phrases in a language thatstudents are familiar with.
  3. Next, divide your class into small groups of 4-5 students. If possible, try to include students who know different languages in each group. Then, distribute a copy of the “Words From the Heart” scenario cards to students.

    Ask each group to review the different scenarios, and discuss how they would respond to each scenario in a way that expresses empathy for the other person. Encourage students to share phrases in all the language(s) that they know, as well as any specific nuances to their body language, gestures, or tone.  

    If students are currently learning a new language, this is a great opportunity for them to practice phrases that native speakers might use in real-life situations.
  4. After groups have finished their discussions, invite students to share their responses with the rest of the class. Students should also explain what each phrase means, and why they chose this particular expression of empathy.  
  5. Afterwards, invite students to reflect on their responses. For example, you might ask:
    • What were some of the emotions that you associated with the different scenarios? How did you express your feelings, and try to relate to the other person’s feelings, in your responses?
    • Did you notice any common themes or patterns in how people express empathy? Did you notice any differences?
    • How might our cultural values and norms influence our responses to the scenarios?
    • Were there instances when the situation influenced your response? For example, would you have reacted differently if the scenario featured a close friend rather than a neighbor?
    • What is the role of nonverbal cues in expressing empathy, like our body language, tone, or gestures? Do these cues vary based on individual or cultural differences?
    • Did you learn about any new ways to show kindness from your classmates? Why is it important to understand different approaches to empathy when we are trying to connect with others?

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.